Washington International Law Journal


Adam Karp


China, and other developing nations, stand at a transportation planning crossroads—whether to follow the American highway/privatized motorization model or to optimize their existing mass transit/nonmotorized transportation model. This Comment charts the history of transportation development in China and indicates its destination in light of China's recent embrace of the car industry as a "pillar" of the nation's economy. It then considers motor vehicles' adverse effects, and assesses the value of mass and nonmotorized transportation as viable alternatives. In order to stall or reverse a process not supported wholeheartedly by the Chinese citizenry, this Comment determines whether China's internal city planning regime, environmental laws, and court system allow citizens to participate in and to challenge monumental decisions such as those affecting transportation development and the environment. Concluding that bottom-up strategies are currently ineffective, this Comment then considers top-down pressure through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ("UN/FCCC"). If not dissuaded, developing countries will undergo a chain reaction of mass motorization, building up a greenhouse gas emission debt many times over what may be reduced by the First World. Of the existing top-down strategies, the COP-3, slated for December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, seems promising.

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